THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2022

A little later than usual, but I’d be remiss to not post this recap of something that has such a meaningful impact on my year. In reflection, this wasn’t my absolute best year of reading (2020 and 2021 were incredible for me) but the out of the 51 books that I read, the 10 below will stick with me for a long time. Some of them have even been elevated to the coveted “best books of my life” list. Happy reading in the new year!

Below, in no particular order, my top 10 books of 2022. And in case you’re interested – my lists from 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – I like historical fiction but I often find that the writing is not as compelling to me as more modern, literary fiction. This one however really swept me away. New York in the 1930s, a female protagonist that I just adored, an imperfect love story. It’s going on my all-time favorites list.

Left On Tenth by Delia Ephron – One of only 2 non-fiction books that made my list this year. This is a story of second chances. A coming of “old” age story. A reminder to us all not to give up or count ourselves out no matter the circumstances. I loved it. 

Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors – I tend to lean towards fictional relationships that feel more like real life.. a little messy, honest, hurtful, beautiful. This book had such a modern voice and a central relationship that felt completely original. I’ll be watching what Mellors does next. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – The most backlist title on my round-up this year (it was originally published in 1992) this one is a cult classic to a lot of readers and a kind of pioneer in the Dark Academia genre. I’d wanted to pick this up for years and am so glad I did. It’s long but it builds such a vivid world that you really inhabit with these characters and I found myself not wanting it to end. All in all I really loved this book and it too has been elevated to one of my all time favorites.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske – I think I liked this book so much, in part, because it really surprised me. Fantasy isn’t my go-to genre by any means but this world, where secret witchcraft existed amongst Edwardian England, totally captivated me. Not to mention a very compelling love story at the center. A pitch perfect escapist novel to me. 

Sorrow & Bliss by Meg Mason – This book made me both laugh out loud and cry. A rare feat. I will say, it’s not an altogether easy book to read, but it has an unforgettable lead character with a great supporting cast and discusses mental health issues in a heartbreakingly honest way. 

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi – The second time a book by Choi has shown up on one of my year end ‘best of’ lists and the only YA book on my list. Choi writes in the most realistic young modern voice that I’ve read and I loved this New York story. Is it weird that in my head I pictured the couple as 2019 era Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson?

Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik – The second non-fiction book to make my list. Like the real life Penny Lane, I’d heard of Eve Babitz but found this deep dive into her life (and with it a look at 1960s Hollywood in its heyday) unputdownable. I read right before we went to Palm Springs and it felt so atmospheric and fun.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo – If you liked Commonwealth by Ann Patchett or Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (aka engrossing family sagas) I urge you to pick up this one that I absolutely loved at the beginning of last year. I still think often about Marilyn and David’s relationship.

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach – Another book I still think about often after having read it last summer. I devoured this over the course of a single weekend, out on the fire escape – sweating and sipping diet coke (it’s the sign of a great book to me when I can still distinctly picture exactly how and where I read it). I hesitate to give anything away here – but it’s a story of sisters and trauma and coming of age and I related to so much of it so deeply.

SHOP MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022:

2022: HOLIDAY BOOKS TO READ THIS SEASON

Another one of my favorite posts to write each year! Around 3 years ago I realized that by the time I get to December, my brain is just mush. And instead of giving up on reading because I don’t have the same type of focus/bandwidth I figured, why not give a fun holiday rom-com a try? Spoiler: I loved it. And so began my yearly tradition of stocking up on holiday books and reading with absolute joy. Since then I’ve expanded to other genres – historical fiction, fairytale re-telling, essays, etc. They just have to be light and not make me think too hard to qualify.

I’m excited to dive into this year’s list and hope that you find something joy-inducing for your own stack this season!

And a friendly reminder – I’ve linked these to Amazon so that you can easily see what they are – but independent bookstores need your support, especially at the holidays.

ON MY READING LIST THIS YEAR:

All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox: Set in Nashville, two rising country music stars are forced to fake a relationship for the media. I expect that holiday spirit and sparks fly.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb: An epistolary novel (written through letters) that follows a couple in the aftermath of WWI. I’m excited to switch up the more modern romances of the other things on my list with this one. And Paris.. swoon.

You’re A Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky: Rich boy forced to leave the city and spend the holidays in charming small town, meets small town boy who is unimpressed with said rich boy. I presume, love ensues. I like that this is a new take on a Hallmark classic trope.

Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar: I was hoping to find one this year that had a fairytale type element and this dark re-telling of The Nutcracker feels like it will perfectly fit the bill.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish: A ‘The Holiday’ type location swap story set in New England and New Orleans, two friend and an LGBTQ romance. Sounds cute!

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss: One of my favorite authors in this genre, this one stars a small bookshop owner in London who encounters her childhood enemy at a school reunion in the English countryside. I love an enemies to lovers story.. and this feels like the perfect holiday setting!

FAVORITES FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS:

One Day in December by Josie Silver: The one that started it all. I read this 2-3 years ago and was instantly hooked on this genre. It’s a classic girl meets boy, girl loses boy to girl’s best friend story. It takes place over the span of almost a decade and I couldn’t put it down.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis: A blizzard traps two people together one night and then fate keeps bringing them back together. Feels a little like Serendipity which is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva: A reimagined tale of what Charles Dickens life looked like as he wrote his beloved Christmas Carol. I loved going back in time to 1800s London and reading this fictionalized account of how his family and friends (and mainly himself) might have showed themselves in his famous work of literature.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris: I’ve mentioned it many times but Sedaris on of my favorite authors. This compilation of his holiday-themed essays is a short, funny read that includes reflections on his time spent working as an elf in Macy’s Santa-land.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory:  I loved that the main couple in this book was in their 50s roughly, it had a Royal storyline (the daughter is a stylist for a Kate Middleton type Duchess) and was diverse (all of the main characters are Black) – and a fun trip to London too! A nice book if you’ve had your fill of the usual 20-somethings falling in love.

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire: From the author of Wicked (that inspired the award-winning musical), this book is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swan’ fairytale – and takes place in New York City at Christmastime in the 1960s. I really liked reading this last year.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss: This was one of my favorites that I read a couple of years ago. The main character is reluctantly seeking love after focusing on a career that she loves and balancing relationships with her family and friends. She felt really well-rounded and realistic. Spoiler – love ensues.

MY 2022 SUMMER READING LIST

Can you believe that we’re already speeding headlong into summer? One of my favorite “small joys” of the season is creating a Summer Reading List. Like you used to have for school.. but you know, actually fun. My reading definitely shifts with the seasons – and in summer I gravitate towards page-turning memoirs, light-hearted rom-coms and fast paced fiction. I’m really excited to dive into the books on this list and hope you find something you might want to pick up and read too.

And in case you’re looking for more – here’s my 2020 list and my 2021 list.

Linking them all below on Amazon so they’re easy to reference, but whenever possible I suggest visiting a local indie book store or your public library this Summer!

  1. Book Lovers by Emily Henry: A buzzy beach read that’s going to be everywhere this summer. I’ve read both of Henry’s other best-sellers and think they’re really well-written rom-coms. Excited for this one.
  2. Finding Me by Viola Davis: My virtual book club’s pick for June! I’ve heard this memoir is great with her voice on audiobook so I might end up listening to it instead.
  3. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One of the classics that I’ve had on my list for awhile. I picked up a copy at famed bookstore Shakespeare & Company in Paris.
  4. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach: Literary fiction focused on two sisters coming of age, with a hint of a mystery element.
  5. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides: An academic thriller that draws on Greek mythology. Fun story: Adam and I unknowingly met the author over drinks in Paris and after exchanging emails, it dawned on me who he was as I’ve seen this cover everywhere! I can’t wait to dive into this one.
  6. Rivals by Katharine McGee: I rarely refer to anything I do as a guilty pleasure.. but liking these books definitely falls into that territory. This is the 3rd in the series about an alternate reality where America is ruled by a monarchy like our British co-horts. It’s the literary equivalent of an episode of Gossip Girl – and I (not so secretly now) really enjoy them.
  7. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney: To redeem myself, here’s a smart literary fiction option. My book club is reading this in July and I’m excited to tackle these themes of faith and family.
  8. Taste by Stanley Tucci: Because I’m really dreaming of a vacation through Italy. This will hopefully tide me over until that day comes.
  9. Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman: I flew through this last week and really enjoyed it. A perfect rom-com beach read in my opinion – and I loved that it was based on a true story of a journalist who interviews Chris Evans and the story leads everyone to wonder what really happened between the two.
  10. Woman Eating by Claire Kohda: A modern literary take on the vampire trope. I’m reading this now and it’s a really interesting take – would make a good book club pick as I’m already wanting to discuss it with someone!
  11. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li: An Ocean’s Eleven style art heist story from the perspective of young, first generation immigrant Americans. I’m looking forward to this one.
  12. Fly Girl by Ann Hood: A memoir of a TWA flight attendant’s stories from air travel’s 1970s glory days.
  13. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Any excuse to stay in the dream-world of Paris for awhile longer. I actually started this on my flight so want to finish.
  14. It All Comes Down to This by Therese Ann Fowler: Sounds like it will be good for fans of The Paper Palace – a story about adult siblings dealing with family drama, set in coastal Maine.
  15. Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer: A tell all look at the “swans” that surrounded Truman Capote in New York’s 1960s society scene.

SHOP MY SUMMER READING LIST:

BEST OF: JANUARY – APRIL READING

I can’t believe that the first few months of 2022 has come and gone. Because of the volume of books that I read, I found it tough to keep up with these recaps last year – so this year I’ve decided to share only the best of what I read. Rating books is so subjective, but for me – I grant an illustrious 5 stars (or a very solid 4 stars) when it’s a book that really captivates me while I’m reading it and sticks with me after I’ve finished. Whether it’s one that challenges my way of thinking or feels like a hug the whole way through. Below, the books I rated 4-5 stars so far this year.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: This book came out a decade ago and I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before this. An absolute 5 stars, this might now rank among my all-time favorite books. Set in the late 1930s, it’s a love letter to New York City – in all of its glitter and grime, ambition and abandon – as well as friendship and finding the people who are right for you, and letting go of those who aren’t. Katey Kontent is definitely a character I’ll keep with me for a long time. This is literary historical fiction at its best.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: I listened on audiobook and this was just… fun! Not everything I rate 5 stars needs to be brilliant literary fiction, sometimes it just needs to make me feel happy and that’s exactly what this did. I’ve read Beach Read by Emily Henry and far preferred this, I felt like the two main characters really just sparkled and I was so rooting for them both. This would in fact make a great beach read.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: A heart-breakingly honest memoir that recalls journalist Ariel Levy’s mid-30s, with all the mistakes, relationships, grief and choices surrounding career and motherhood that came with it. There are some brutal things that happen to Levy in this book – some she brought on herself and some that no one ever deserves. She looks back on it all with levity and a hard-earned grace I really admired.

Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik: I first read Eve Babitz a couple of summers ago and was completely swept away. A real life Penny Lane meets Carrie Bradshaw meets Joan Didion, she was at the white hot center of everything cool in LA in the 60s/70s. This biography managed to be capture the spirit of someone who seems impossibly hard to nail down. I loved it and have since picked up even more of Babitz’ work.

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas: Dark academia happens to be a very specific subsection of literature that I really love and this book explores that area in a totally new way. A modern look at morality, relationships, the divide between generations and more – this had me hooked from the very first page and never let me go.

Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors: A debut novel that really I really loved (it might make my top 10 of 2022 list), this looks at the whirlwind relationship between Cleo and Frank from a mix of their perspectives as well as others close to them. It sounds like a simple story but the beauty is in the characters, their joys, their flaws and ultimately their evolution.

Permanent Record by Mark H.K. Choi: Choi is probably my favorite YA author because her stories feel fresh and young, but also sophisticated and modern. This is one of her earlier books and as usual, I totally fell for the characters and flew through it.

Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron: I heard this described as a ‘coming of “old” age book’ and I think that perfectly captures it. At 72, Ephron (Nora’s sister) is rediscovering herself in the wake of her husband’s death – when suddenly and shockingly, she falls in love again. She also falls ill. The book is a look at hope, love, second chances and realizing there’s always more life to live. Will go on my list of favorite memoirs for sure.

The Marvellous Light by Freya Marske: Maybe my most surprising reads of the year – Edwardian England! A gay love story! Secret magic! I went in blind and ended up loving it. I still think about this book often since reading it in January.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo: On Instagram I said this is for fans of Father of the Bride – not because the plots have anything in common, but because there’s a sweeping feeling of familial love in this book that reminds me of that movie. I loved this family – the Mom and Dad especially – but all 4 daughters kept me equally interested and even though they were flawed (as all families are) I was rooting for them all the way to the end.

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THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2021

I’m set to finish 62 books this year, certainly my biggest reading year in the past decade. When I thought of picking my favorites I tried to think of the books that I still find myself reminiscing over. Whether it was the way they made me feel, a certain character in them that remained especially vivid or a storyline that really captured my mind or my heart. Below, my top 10 books of 2021.

In terms of stats – it was fun to notice that all 10 were written by women, 6 were debut works, 4 were by diverse authors, 4 were backlist titles (meaning they didn’t come out in the past couple of years) and 2 were non-fiction. 

And in case you’re looking for more: my 2020 top 10 list here and my 2019 list here.

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain – Originally published in 2012 (almost a full decade ago!) this book had been on my list to read for awhile now and I’m SO glad I finally did. This is one of those rare books that I would absolutely re-read. A love letter to Hemingway’s Paris and the woman lost to his early history.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters – Unlike anything else on this list, or that I’d read before. This debut work was hilarious and heart-breaking in equal turns. A modern story of trans identity, motherhood, and love.

Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff – Another backlist title, this one from 2016, proved that if you can press pause on the shiny new releases, there is a world of amazing books that I still want to read from years past. This one blew me away in a way that a book hasn’t in a long time. A couple so complicated, so dynamic, so unbelievable yet so vividly real – I still think about them often. Another book I can’t wait to re-read in a few years.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi – I was really excited to find this author this year and she quickly became a new favorite. Yolk is a really gripping story of two sisters and their complicated relationship set in modern New York. So few books get today’s generation’s voice right and Choi really does it well in my opinion.

She Come by It Natural by Sarah Smarsh – If you can believe it, I just read this over the course of the past couple of days (it’s short) and it made the list! It’s essentially a think piece on Dolly Parton’s life and a look at how she’s been a brash, unorthodox embodiment of feminism all these years. There’s a lot on the way she was raised – which is very similar to my own late Nan (who I adored and who not surprisingly, was a Dolly fan herself) and how she never ‘got too big for her britches’ as my Nan would say. I loved it. Long live Dolly.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller – Switching between present day Cape Cod and the main character’s often wrought childhood in Manhattan, this book was at turns dark and gripping. A complicated family dealing with the rippling effects of past traumas with settings so vivid you felt like you were there.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz – I sometimes struggle with short story collections – I like a few, feel mediocre about the rest. Get bored and set it aside. Not the case with this debut collection of short stories, that I devoured in a day and still think about a few of the stories. Sometimes dark and always full of emotion, this author will be one I watch.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb – One of the most interesting ‘memoirs’ I’ve ever read in that it re-told the stories of her great grandmother, grandmother and mother as they were passed down to her. Largely, it was a love letter to the strong women in her family and the bond between her and her beloved late grandmother which I adored.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett – Her second book, The Vanishing Half, made my list last year but I’m so glad I went back and read her debut novel because I actually like it even more. There are particular lines in this book I still think about months after reading it.

Olympus Texas by Stacey Swann – A dynamic family with drama as big as the gods, this story set in the ranch lands of Texas played with themes of Greek mythology while remaining completely modern and original to me. My entire book club loved it and I’m hoping it gets translated into a movie or miniseries. The female characters were some of the most interesting I read all year.

SHOP THE LIST:

Looking at thAT list, I definitely lean towards more complicated, sometimes darker reads – so I wanted to add in a few honorable mentions for 3 books that were completely *fun* to read.

The Guncle by Steven Rowley – An out of work actor and resident ‘Guncle’ (gay Uncle) has to take in his young niece and nephew for the summer in his Palm Springs home. Hijinks and heartwarming moments ensue. Such a feel good read.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling – Read this next October. It’s like Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls, fun, light, and romantic with just the right amount of witchiness.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – This was described as Dracula meets Steel Magnolias and as strange as that sounds – and as unlikely as I was to me that I would like this book – I loved it and couldn’t put it down this summer. A reminder to branch out every now and then when it comes to your reading life!